TORONTO — Tobias Lindberg felt some confusion when he was held out of the Binghamton Senators’ practice on Tuesday morning.
The unknown eventually turned to concern.
“I was worried and didn’t really know what was going (on),” said Lindberg. “At first, I was just scared mostly. Like ‘Oh they don’t like me here and they thought I was a bad player.”’
The 20-year-old forward soon learned that he was part of a nine-player trade with the Maple Leafs and headed to Toronto to join the AHL Marlies.
Lindberg had his first practice with the Marlies on Wednesday, skating on a line with William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen – a trio that’s expected to start together this weekend when Toronto visits the St. John’s IceCaps.
His first time on the ice with his new club differed from what he was used to in Binghamton, but he came away impressed and optimistic about the change of scenery.
“A lot of skill work, which is new to me, we didn’t really do that stuff a lot in Ottawa,” said Lindberg. “I like that. Just the rink and facility is amazing. Just the fact that you have two, a practice rink and a game rink, it’s just top notch.”
Lindberg, Ottawa’s fourth-round selection in 2013, appeared in 34 games with AHL Binghamton and produced five goals and 17 assists. Just four days prior to being traded he scored the overtime winner against the Marlies.
The Swede, who is in the first year of his three-year, entry-level contract, is a prospect Toronto’s management targeted in the trade as they continue to build through a youth movement.
“He’s a big strong competitive winger,” Leafs assistant general manager Kyle Dubas told The Canadian Press. “We don’t have a lot of size, not that that was imperative, but when you’re going through the list of prospects, (size) can play a minor role.”
The six-foot-three, 213-pound winger is no stranger to the organization.
Current Leafs assistant D.J. Smith coached Lindberg while both were a part of the Ontario Hockey League’s Oshawa Generals last season.
“The one thing you can say, when you have a guy like D.J. in the organization, if you didn’t like him, then he wouldn’t be here,” said Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe, who coached against Lindberg while he was with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
“He really jumped off the page to me when I watched their team play and preparing for them, he was a handful for us.”
Lindberg scored 32 goals and 78 points in 67 regular-season games with the Generals and helped the club win the 2015 Memorial Cup, but he almost passed on the opportunity to come to North America.
“I was kind of in a rut and didn’t like to go to the rink everyday,” he said. “Ottawa came at me with a new challenge so I really put hockey first and really went for it. Really happy I made that decision.”
Lindberg has an opportunity to get to the NHL with Toronto, but there is still some work to do with the Marlies, including learning team systems.
“He needs to continue to become more explosive with his skating and I think we’re looking forward to working with him on that,” said Dubas. “Even though he’s big, he’s going to continue to get stronger, and in our case, learn the way we play.